Starting or Renewing a Student Group

Before starting a new group, please review the list of student groups at the GSD, as there may already be an established group with the same or similar focus.

To start or renew a group, you will need to fill out an application. Starting in fall 2020, groups apply to register or renew through our new student activities platform, Engage. Groups can prepare for their applications by thinking through several questions:

  • Who are your group's leadership? Each group will need to designate a primary and secondary contact, as well as assigning the roles of treasurer and events liaison (which can be held by the primary or secondary contacts if desired).
  • What is your group's mission statement? Existing groups can choose to keep their current statement, but are encouraged to update to reflect any change in focus, goals, and plans for the new year.
  • What activities is your group planning? Student group activities can range from small regular meetings up to major conferences produced in partnership with GSD administration. Most group events are small gatherings, lectures, and discussions, with a few symposia, conferences, and other ambitious plans often becoming collaborations between multiple groups. Please note that all events, even online ones, will still need to go through the events planning and approval process.
  • Does your group have any funding needs to maintain its operations or carry out its proposed activities? Groups will have the option to make funding requests. Keep in mind that the amounts requested generally far exceed the funds available. See below for guidelines on what kinds of expenses can be funded.

We've gathered some important information for student group leaders about using Engage and registering or renewing your group in an introduction to Engage for student group leaders post.

Please address questions about the student group application process to Erica George or to the Student Groups Chair of Student Forum. For 2020-2021, that is Nupur Gurjar.

Student Group Funding

Student Group budget requests are reviewed a committee chaired by the Student Forum Student Groups Chair and including other elected members of Student Forum. Funding decisions must be approved by student affairs staff. Following the allocations process, groups wishing a more thorough explanation of their specific allocation decision may inquire to the Student Groups Chair.

When considering your group's funding requests, and when spending group funds during the year, please keep in mind that student groups funding is meant to benefit all students. While each group may plan activities that focus on their members as the primary intended participants, such activities should be open to all group members, and membership in the group should be open to all GSD students. Funds allocated to groups by Student Forum should not be used for activities that are restricted to a select few, such as for travel, or free group merchandise for group leadership. Also note that funds allocated in one academic year must be spent in that academic year, and cannot be carried over to a new academic year.

Student group leaders receive additional information and guidance about making funds request after their group has been registered for the academic year.

Engage Platform

Engage is a student activities platform newly launched at the GSD in fall 2020. Engage is a browser-based way to manage student groups and government, and for all students to more easily connect with the groups and activities they're interested in.

In Engage, each student group has its own dedicated online presence. For many groups, this may mean no longer needing to maintain externally hosted sites, though external sites will still be an option. In Engage, groups can update mission statements, leadership, and member rosters, and link to social media and other external presences. Groups can propose and be approved for events, and promote those events through an interactive events listing. Students can then add those events to their individual calendars. Groups can easily maintain files from year to year, communicate with membership, and even run leadership elections through Engage.

A good place to start learning how to use Engage is this introduction to Engage for student group leaders post.


Application and Recognition

Student groups must apply each academic year to begin or renew their status as recognized groups. Only recognized groups are eligible for GSD student groups funding and other resources. Student Forum and the Student Services office review all applications, and must approve all requests for recognition. The main registration period is in September, but groups can form at any point in the year. Groups forming later should note that funding may no longer be available after the official allocations process.

Event Proposal and Approval

All GSD events go through a proposal and review process, and not all events will necessarily be approved. The GSD's Events Committee considers many factors, including timing relative to other GSD happenings, resource availability, and event content. Even though events are currently all remote, they still must go through this process. It's very important to note that event requests are not approved until they are officially confirmed by the Events Committee.

Group leaders should review the Event Planning for Students page, and are encouraged to reach out to Erica George with any questions. Especially for any larger or ambitious events, or those with high-profile proposed participants, groups are urged to connect with Erica as early as possible in the planning process.

All active GSD and Harvard policies regarding COVID-19 apply to all in-person student group activities. Any activity that violates these policies will not be eligible for reimbursement from student groups funding. Further, holding an event that violates COVID-19 policies may lead to disciplinary action for both group leaders and the group itself.

Groups considering tentative plans for future in-person activities should make note of the GSD's Student Events Alcohol Policy
and GSD Custodial Policy for Events. Keep in mind that adhering to these policies can sometimes add unforeseen costs to a planned event.


The reimbursement process documents your expenses, connects your expenses to your allocated funds, and demonstrates that the expenses are authorized by your group's treasurer and in line with your group's mission. Expenses must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the expense. Scans or photographs of receipts, including the vendor name and amount spent, are required. The reimbursement process is handled through Engage. See this guide to requesting payment from your student group's funds for more information. You can also email with questions.

Reimbursements generally can take a week or two from submission. If for any reason you need a quicker reimbursement, please contact For 2020-2021, reimbursement is primarily through Venmo or by a paper check sent through the mail. For larger expenses, please reach out in advance as in some cases the student affairs team can pay the expense directly.

Bank Accounts

Some student groups have bank accounts at the Harvard University Employees Credit Union (HUECU). Groups with bank accounts must complete a financial accountability statement, as well as some HUECU forms, before each year's leadership can gain access to the account. Relevant groups will receive further information directly.

GSD student groups that wish to be recognized and eligible for GSD funding and other resources must not maintain external bank accounts apart from those held at HUECU. If your group is interested in applying to hold a HUECU bank account, an application form will be available in Engage.

Programs involving Minors

There are specific legal issues to consider around working with minors (any person who is not yet 18 years old). If your student group is considering including minors in any programming, consult as soon as possible with Kelly Wisnaskas in Student Services. In some situations, background checks or other screenings are required, so it's important to allow some time to plan.